Do People Always Avoid War?
By David Henderson
First, Bryan stated:
My prediction: If someone suddenly tried to kill David, he wouldn’t “defend” himself. He would run away. So would I. So would almost everyone. As this scene from Fight Club beautifully illustrates, it is very hard to pick a fight with a stranger. Flight, not fight, is humans’ standard response to violence. And for the most part, our cowardly reaction is entirely functional.
The quote from me that Bryan was responding to was admittedly exaggerated. And, in spirit, I agree with Bryan about his predictions of my behavior if you expand the concept of “running away.” One of the skills I’ve perfected over the years, when running away isn’t an option or isn’t a good option, is talking people out of hitting me. I wrote about it in 2006 in an article titled, “I Don’t Have to Fight You.”
That brings me to Bryan’s second post, “War: What Is It Here For?” Again, I think Bryan made some good points and they are points that I have made myself here. But, as some of the commenters said, he took it too far. First, some evidence and then some anecdotes.
1. When World War II began for the United States on December 8, 1941, the United States had a draft. Meanwhile, though, about 100,000 to 140,000 people a month entered the military in the first 3 months of that war. They weren’t drafted. Now, you could argue that they were doing it to avoid being drafted into combat. But they disproportionately joined the Navy. Given that the thing that riled most Americans was not Hitler and the Germans but the Japanese government’s attack on Pearl Harbor, an attack mainly on the Navy, if you wanted to avoid action, you would be unlikely to join the Navy.
2. Canada fought most of World War I and most of World War II without drafting people into combat. Ditto Australia in World War I.
1. When Canada got into the war, my father was 29. He didn’t join. He looked around and saw a number of people joining the Army and wanted to be part of an experience his generation was having. When he was 32, in 1942, he did join. He was kicked out for being hard of hearing, but he joined.
2. When I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee against re-introducing the draft and draft registration, Senator Sam Nunn asked me how much it would take to get me to enlist. “To fight in the Middle East or Africa,” I said, “infinity.” “To fight to protect the United States from an attack on our shores, reasonable: $20,000 or so. [That was about my salary at the time.]” Since then, I’ve thought about it and if the Chinese government [I find this hypothetical threat highly implausible] attacked our shores, I don’t think you’d have to pay me anything to fight.